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A scientific leader and strategic partner of UT’s will be the latest visionary to receive an honorary degree from the university this spring.

The UT Board of Trustees approved a proposal today for Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason to receive an honorary doctorate in science. He will be UT’s 13th recipient.

Portraits of Thom Msaon Lab Dir

Mason, an experimental condensed matter physicist, will receive the degree and deliver remarks at the Graduate Hooding ceremony set for 5:00 p.m. Thursday, May 12 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

ORNL is a leading national research center with focuses including clean energy, supercomputing, neutron science, nuclear science and engineering, advanced materials research, and global security.

In addition to serving as ORNL’s director, Mason has played a large role in several of its more well-known programs, both before and after taking on his current role, including leading the launch of the Spallation Neutron Source and helping in the creation of programs that benefit both ORNL and UT, such as the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Education.

As president and CEO of UT-Battelle, LLC, which manages ORNL for the U.S. Department of Energy, Mason was instrumental in the discussions that led to the creation of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation—a $259 million venture managed by the UT Research Foundation and supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, six states and more than 120 companies.

Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek noted in his nomination that Mason’s leadership at ORNL has led to breakthroughs including “discovery of new elements of the periodic table, production of fuel for NASA missions, and development of advanced materials and manufacturing processes” that led to recent worldwide acclaim for the lab in producing a 3-D printed car and house.

Mason’s UT career goes back even further, beginning when he joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy in 1998 as an adjunct associate professor, becoming an adjunct professor in 2003.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1986, before earning his doctorate in condensed matter sciences from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1990.

Mason has earned several notable awards in his career, including being named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the United Kingdom Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, and the Neutron Scattering Society of America. He also serves as chairman of the board of directors for Innovation Valley and the Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation.

He is one of three distinguished leaders set to receive honorary degrees during three-day Spring Commencement ceremonies. On May 13, Robin Klehr Avia, regional managing principal and chair of the executive committee of the board of directors for Gensler, will receive an honorary doctorate in fine arts, and Fred Smith, founder and CEO of FedEx, will receive an honorary doctorate in business. Both were selected at the board’s fall meeting in Knoxville.

A full list of people who have received honorary degrees can be seen here.



David Goddard (865-974-0683,